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Thomas J. Tallent, retired Sykesville postmaster and avid singer, dies

Thomas J. Tallent entertained family members with his Irish tenor.
Thomas J. Tallent entertained family members with his Irish tenor. (handout / HANDOUT)

Thomas J. Tallent, a retired Sykesville postmaster and avid singer who enjoyed reprising songs from the 1940s and 1950s, died Sunday from complications of liver cancer at Stella Maris Hospice. The former longtime Towson resident was 91.

Thomas Joseph Tallent, son of Thomas Joseph Tallent, a Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotive fireman, and his wife, Mary Hogan Tallent, a homemaker, was born one of six children and raised in Philadelphia.

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After Mr. Tallent’s father died when he was 5 years old, his mother went to work as a housekeeper to care for her children, and the family lived first on Girard Avenue and later on Warren Street in west Philadelphia.

To earn money, Mr. Tallent was 13 when he started caddying, which resulted in a lifelong appreciation for golf. He was a 1947 graduate of St. Thomas More High School and served in the Army from 1948 to 1951. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, and Kokura, Japan, earning the Korean Service Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal.

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“His exploits and good humor — a lifelong trait — also earned him a nickname from the Japanese that translates into ‘Laughing Boy,’ ” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family.

After being discharged from the Army, he studied physical therapy on the GI Bill at the University of Pennsylvania and science at Drexel University.

He began his 35-year U.S. Postal Service career in 1957 in Philadelphia, and a year later, near Halloween, he met and fell in love with Kathleen “Kitty” O’Donnell, whom he met through mutual friends in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The couple married in 1960 and settled near Philadelphia, where his wife gave birth to the first four of their eventual five children.

In 1973, Mr. Tallent was transferred to Maryland, living first in Marriottsville, where their last child was born, and then moving to Eldersburg, Towson and Timonium.

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Mr. Tallent, who was also known as “T.J.”, was assigned to the main post office in downtown Baltimore and later held postal positions at branches in Hampden, Catonsville and Mount Washington before being appointed postmaster in the mid-1980s in Sykesville. He retired in 1992.

Ray Centofanti worked with Mr. Tallent as a manager at the Catonsville Post Office.

“We worked together in Catonsville in the early 1970s,” said Mr. Centofanti, who was postmaster in Fallston at the time of his retirement in 1992.

“Tom was the most wonderful person you’d ever want to meet. He was low-key and not excitable, friendly and a wonderful manager who was well-liked by all of the workers,” the Milton, Delaware, resident said. “We have spoken on the phone two or three times a week for 50 years. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man.”

An Irish tenor, Mr. Tallent enjoyed singing with various choral groups and at home would entertain family members with his renditions of the Andrew Sisters’ “Hold Tight, Hold Tight,” the 1939 “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot” jingle, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s “Apalachicola F.L.A.” and the Tune Weavers’ “Happy Happy Birthday Baby.” For a while he considered taking up the bagpipes.

“I never knew that Tom sang, and if I did, I would have asked him to sing me a song,” Mr. Centofanti said. “Of all the things we talked about through the years, he never bothered to tell me that.”

In addition to following local sports, Mr. Tallent liked to attend concerts such as carillon recitals at McDonogh School, and theater and dance performances, especially annual holiday productions of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Mr. Tallent was an avid reader of newspapers, mystery novels and histories of World War II and submarines. He was also an inveterate traveler and with his wife traveled to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, England and Ireland. In 1971, he and his wife took their family on a monthlong auto trip across the country that resulted in numerous retellings.

In 2009, he and his wife moved to St. Elizabeth Hall, a residential facility on the Timonium campus of Stella Maris.

“His wife Kitty came down with dementia and they moved to Stella Maris,” Mr. Centofanti said. “For more than 10 years, he stayed by her side every day.”

Deeply religious and a lifelong Roman Catholic, Mr. Tallent was a Eucharistic minister at St. Joseph Catholic Community in Eldersburg and most recently was a communicant at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson.

Family members said that Mr. Tallent was blessed with good health, a playful sense of humor and a lively disposition as the years passed.

“He was quite vital until the end of his life,” said a daughter, Anne Tallent, a Baltimore Sun editor who lives in Silver Spring.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Friday at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Tallent is survived by two sons, Will Tallent of Timonium and Thomas Tallent of Miami, Florida; two other daughters, Kate Tallent of Pigtown and Elizabeth Tallent of Falls Church, Virginia; and a grandson.

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